Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I Call You by Name

Bible Sharing last night had a new person.  We were reading Sunday's Gospel, John 6:1-15 and the newbie noticed that "...Andrew, Simon Peter's brother..." was pointed out.  "Is it important?", she asked.  This question led to a discussion of names.

Throughout scripture, names are important.  I'll quote directly here:

Names are significant in the Bible, and they have a variety of functions.
For instance, a biblical name could record some aspects of a person’s birth. Moses was given his name because his mother drew him out of a river (Exodus 2:10). His name literally means “to draw out.” Jacob and Samuel also serve as examples (Genesis 25:6; 1 Samuel 1:20).
Biblical names sometimes expressed the parents’ reaction to the birth of their child. Examples include Isaac (Genesis 21:6) which means “laughter”, and Abimelech (Judges 8:31) which means “my father is king.”
Biblical names were sometimes used to secure the solidarity of family ties. An example of this is found in Luke 1:59 when John the Baptist was nearly given the name of his father.
Biblical names could be used to communicate God’s message. The prophet Isaiah named his first son Shear-jashub which means “a remnant shall return” (Isaiah 7:3). This was in line with God’s message to the Israelite people that they would be reduced to a mere remnant of what they once were, and would eventually return from exile to the promised land.
Biblical names were also used to establish affiliation with God. All the names ending with -jah or -el(and there are many of those) are saying “with the Lord” or “with God.” 
Then you have the giving of a new name. This was used to establish authority over another, or to indicate a new beginning or new direction in a person’s life. For instance, Pharaoh changed Joseph’s name to Zephenath-paneah when Joseph entered his service (Genesis 41:45), another Pharaoh changed the name of the Jewish king Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:24). While in Babylonian captivity, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were forced to change their names to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1:6-7). Name changes indicating a new life direction include Abram to Abraham (Genesis 17:5), Cephas to Peter (Mark 3:16), and some would say Saul to Paul (Acts 13:9).

This is from Wes Woodell's The Overflow. Later on, in the session, someone remembered the affect of Jesus naming "Mary," when Mary Magdalene was crying because she found Jesus' tomb empty.  She immediately, recognized Who was speaking her name.  It was the same voice that she was conversing with before He said her name.  But the pronouncing of her name gave meaning to her identity.  And isn't this true with ourselves, also?  When we hear our names pronounced, we perk up.  We are pleased with the acknowledgement of our identity.  Personal identity that a name gives us is why names are important.  

Since my name is "Faith," I feel that I have a special understanding of the importance of names.  As a child, the name was too different.  It made me extremely shy.  As a college student, a clerical error gave me the opportunity to change it.  My first and second names were switched.  Coincidentally, at the time I was a fan of  F. Scott Fitzgerald.  This author's name gave me the inspiration to start identifying myself as F. Donna (Last name).  Everyone called me Donna.  

I was Donna for about ten to fifteen years.  During this time, I slacked off in my relationship with God.  I think of it as "losing my faith."  Not "losing as lost;" rather more like "slacking."  My relationship with God was put on hold.

This changed when I worked as a real estate broker.  My manager and mentor told me I was crazy to drop my first name.  The name, "Faith" is what made me stand out.  Of course, I knew that too well! But when you're a salesperson, name recognition is the name of the game.  So my business cards read Faith D. Flaherty.  Also at that time, God came knocking but that's a different post.  The point being, the name Faith was changed just at the time my religious consciousness was reawakened.  Coincidence?

All this discourse over the importance of names.  I contend that your name gives you a personal identity and uniqueness.  Our names affect us psychologically, religiously, relationally, as well as legally.  Names are so important that the Catholic Church recognizes the naming of a person in a beautiful sacrament--another cool reason I'm glad I'm Catholic.

The priest asks the parents, "What name do you give your child?"  (I picture all action in heaven stopping and ears bending down to listen.) Then the priest invites the parents and godparents to trace the sign of the cross on the person's forehead.  

The indelible sign of Christianity.  I pray, that like Mary Magdalene, we will hear Jesus call us by our very own name. 

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